This article is excerpted from Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat Newsletter, dated January 25, 2020.

Yoga promotes physical health in multiple different ways. Some of them derive from better stress management. Others come more directly from the physical movements and postures in yoga, which help promote flexibility and reduce joint pain.

Back pain relief

Back pain is one of the most common health problems in the United States. Four out of five Americans will suffer from it at some point. But yoga appears to help. A 2013 meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled trials found “strong evidence for short-term effectiveness and moderate evidence for long-term effectiveness of yoga for chronic low-back pain.” In fact, the American Society of Pain urges physicians to consider recommending yoga to patients with long-term pain in the lower back.

While it is tempting to stay in bed when your back hurts, doctors no longer recommend extended bed rest. Although lying in bed does minimize stress on the lumbar spine, it also causes muscles to lose conditioning, among other problems. In general, the sooner you can get up and get moving, the faster you will recover. Yoga helps alleviate back pain by increasing flexibility and muscle strength. Relaxation, stress reduction, and better body awareness may also play a role.

In one study, published in the journal Spine, people with back pain who did two 90-minute sessions of yoga a week for 24 weeks experienced a 56% reduction in pain. They also had less disability and depression than people with back pain who received standard care, such as pain medication. The results also suggested a trend toward the use of less pain medication in those who did yoga. When the researchers followed up with the participants six months after the study, 68% of the people in the yoga group were still practicing yoga an average of three days a week for an average of 33 minutes per session. That’s a good indicator that they found yoga to be helpful.

In addition to the back pain relief, preliminary research also shows that yoga may help with migraines, osteoporosis, balance and mobility issues, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, and ADHD.

Pain Relief Beyond Yoga

If you’ve been doing yoga for an extended period of time and are still feeling back pain, this may be a sign of an underlying spine condition with physical changes that can only be corrected with surgery. But back surgery does not have to be a frightening experience. The Bonati Spine Procedures were created by Dr. Bonati as a targeted, minimally invasive alternative to harsh open-back surgeries. Scaring, bleeding and recovery times are significantly reduced and no hospital stay is necessary with our exclusive, outpatient procedures. If you would like to discuss your case with our team, simply call us at 855-267-0482 or complete our online contact form here, and one of our patient advocates will be happy to reach out to you to discuss.